Our Single Umbilical Artery (SUA) Pregnancy Experience

single umbilical artery

Image of single umbilical artery from myhealth.alberta.ca

There was really no point in my pregnancy that I was not afraid I was going to lose the baby. In part, that fear stemmed from the emotional rollercoaster that pregnancy after loss can be under the best circumstances. And, in part, it arose from finding out that the baby and I had a single umbilical artery.

We found out about the SUA at our 20 week anomaly scan, and the doctors were moderately reassuring. I am a researcher by training, however, and when I went in search of more information on my own, what I found was just frightening. And I couldn’t find any stories from families—just a bunch of medical journal articles that kept me up at night with visions of stillbirth. So, I wanted to share our story to put something a little more personal out there, in case you find yourself in this situation. DISCLAIMER: please do not take this as medical advice. I’m not that kind of doctor. This is just our family’s story.

What is a single umbilical artery?

I had never heard of it before, but a single umbilical artery affects an estimated 1 in 100 pregnancies. Not that rare, really. Basically, a typical umbilical cord is made up of one big vessel and two arteries. One of the midwives told me that it looks like a smiley face. The vessel is what brings the blood, oxygen, and nutrients to the baby. The arteries are what carry waste away from the baby. In theory, having just one of those arteries does not have to affect the baby whatsoever. At least 75% of these babies come out just fine and you’d never know that there was a SUA unless it was found on the ultrasound or until cutting the cord. A lot of doctors don’t even check for it.

When paired with other anomalies, however, a SUA can be a soft marker for chromosomal abnormalities. On our 20-week scan, they also saw a “bright spot” on our daughter’s heart. I knew something was up, because the sonographer, who isn’t allowed to really say anything, asked twice if I’d had a Quad Screen done. Again, on its own, that bright spot means nothing, but with the two put together… The doctor (a specialist, not my usual provider) told me that with those two markers and my age (ahem, I am only 33, thank you very much), he’d put the chance of Down Syndrome at about 1 in 300 and he recommended that we do genetic testing.

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(Book Review) The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed

the black kidsThe Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed

The Black Kids is set in Los Angeles in 1992, beginning just before the verdict in the Rodney King trial is handed down. Seventeen-year-old Ashley and her prep school friends are busy preparing for the prom. Underneath the dayglow exterior of their lives, though, Ashley has a lot of thoughts about race and her white friends’ often hurtful attitudes. She is also dealing with the prospect of her nanny moving back to Guatemala and a protracted conflict between her parents and her radical older sister, Jo. Then, the verdict and the riots bring so many personal conflicts in Ashley’s circle to a tipping point.

In 1992, I was in kindergarten. If the history of Rodney King and the riots over the officers’ acquittals is not something in your memory either, this book is not a good first source to learn about it. What it does really, really well is use the context of that history to draw out how race and privilege impact Ashley’s life and her relationships. Whereas she and her sister benefit from the cushy life their parents have worked hard to give them—a very sheltered home and attendance at a prep school—their cousin grows up in one of the neighborhoods heavily impacted by the riots and the looting. When the family comes together, their different perspectives illustrate how the events might affect people differently based not only on race, but also on class and location. Ashley also focuses on Latasha Harlins (122-23), whose murder by a convenience store owner who was acquitted, was another—often forgotten—tipping point leading up to the riots. Lastasha’s story is personal to Ashley in a way that emphasizes the book’s focus on the intersection between gender and race. Furthermore, Christina Hammonds Reed manages to work the 1921 Tulsa Massacre into the family history in a way that feels organic and packs a huge emotional punch, an example of generational trauma.

My favorite part of the book is its focus on the intersection between Ashley’s gender and her race. As the book starts out and she and her friends are busy partying and preparing for prom, her thoughts turn several times toward what it’s like to be a girl. For example, after explaining that one of her friends used to collect insects, she muses: “It’s a bit morbid, if you ask me, taking beautiful things and pinning them down to be admired. But that’s kinda like what happens to some girls between junior high and high school, being pretty gets in the way of being a person” (12).

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Books on School Integration and Racism

Children of the Dream

School busing has been in the news again as a result of the conflict between Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and his runningmate Kamala Harris during the primary debate last year over Biden’s stance on busing in the 1980s. School integration has long been a complicated part of race relations in the United States. In 1954, the Supreme Court handed down their ruling in Brown v Board of Education, which stated that state-sponsored school segregation was unconstitutional (because it violates the 14th amendment). The resistance to integrating the schools stemmed in part from those invested in segregation (racists) knowing that integration of the schools would result in the integration of much of the culture (Johnson 1). Children would become friends with each other and that would have an integrating effect on their social circles for the rest of their lives. Integration builds empathy and humanizes those who children may have been raised to hate or fear.

The effects of busing as a tool of integration have been debated for years (for example, you can read more at NPR, The Washington Post, and Politico), but the experts largely agree that school integration does have positive effects on the achievement gap and undermining systemic racism, we just didn’t give it a chance for long enough.

Now, as conversations about anti-racism abound, taking another look at school integration is a good idea. Fortunately, there are plenty of books for doing just that. Just last year, two books came out that look at integration specifically: The Long Ride by Marina Tamar Budhos, a middle-grade novel about forced busing in New York City in 1971, and Children of the Dream: Why School Integration Works by Rucker C. Johnson with Alexander Nazaryan, an academic examination of school integration and the consequences of failing to fully invest in policies to support it. Johnson and Nazaryan argue for “three powerful cures to unequal educational opportunity: (1) integration, (2) equitable school funding, and (3) high-quality preschool investments—all of which were tried before but abandoned, partly out of resistance, but also out of a lack of collective patience and wholesale integration of the policies themselves” (12). This book is a pretty academic take (it’s written by an economist), driven by data on education policy, so it is not a “casual” read, but the argument is cogent and persuasive and the authors make it even more relevant through the connections they make between educational inequality and other forms of systemic racism (they specifically examine the cases of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and Freddie Gray in their intro).

Another book that may be of interest is Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?: And Other Conversations about Race by Beverly Daniel Tatum, which focuses on the psychology of racism. Three chapters in “Part II: Understanding Blackness in a White Context” examine the development of racial identity over the course of childhood, adolescence, and adulthood and can help elucidate how segregation reinforces racism.

Norman-Rockwell-The-Problem-We-All-Live-With-1964

The Problem We All Live With by Norman Rockwell (1954) depicts Ruby Bridges being escorted to school by U.S. Marshals in New Orleans.

Books about Civil Rights Era school integration

There are also many books about the history of school integration during the 1950s, including Remember: The Journey to School Integration by Toni Morrison and Through My Eyes by Ruby Bridges. A large number of books focus on Ruby Bridges or the Little Rock Nine, whose integration of their schools in New Orleans and Little Rock, respectively, became iconic images of the Civil Rights Era. I actually wrote about Ruby Bridges in my dissertation, and coverage of her story continues to be a popular way to discuss Civil Rights with young children.

a girl stands at the door

A Girl Stands at the Door: The Generation of Young Women Who Desegregated America’s Schools by Rachel Devlin is a newer (2018) book that I am very excited about. In the book, Devlin looks at the history of school integration as a grassroots movement that was largely led by girls and young women and their families, whose court cases put pressure on the federal government to act. This book does a fabulous job of centering Black girlhood, which, along with the role of Black women, often gets sidelined by the “great men theory of history,” no matter how much girls contributed to the high profile protests of the era.

Taken as a whole, these books make clear at least two important points. 1) The history of school integration is one that young people have been at the center of as active participants, not just pawns in policy wars, and 2) school integration is a vital part of dismantling systemic racism. We just have to figure out how to do it well and stick with it.

(Book Review) The Only Good Indians

the only good indiansThe Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones  (Mild spoilers ahead)

During the Indian Wars, Philip Sheridan, an army officer, was quoted as saying “the only good Indian is a dead Indian.” That terrible saying was later picked up by Theodore Roosevelt, who said, “I don’t go so far as to think that the only good Indians are the dead Indians, but I believe nine out of every 10 are.”

Stephen Graham Jones makes a nod to that horrible history in the title of his new novel, The Only Good Indians. The novel centers on a group of four friends who commit a transgression against tribal rules and nature while on a hunting trip just before Thanksgiving and, ten years later, are made to pay for it by one of the victims of their hunt. Basically, a young, pregnant elk who they shot on land reserved for the elders is coming back to get them. Animal lovers, there are a couple of parts in this book that are going to be hard for you.

I thought that the first half of this novel was nearly perfect. Jones establishes the haunting of Lewis, one of the aforementioned friends, in a way that, like The Turn of the Screw, has the reader (and Lewis) questioning if he is just losing his grip on reality. There are some terrifying, hard to stomach images, but they stem from accidents that are really pretty mundane. The result is a highly atmospheric, tense, and downright scary ghost story.

Along with the scary bits, I think Jones also does a great job developing his characters. Lewis has a rich inner life, which builds that uncertainty over whether he is being haunted or not. Meanwhile, the two main female characters in this first half: Lewis’s wife, Peta, and coworker, Shaney, take up less of the narrative,  but there are hints of well-rounded, interesting characters beyond how they relate to Lewis himself.

And, there was some fun, odd humor in the mix as well. One of my favorite moments came when Lewis is trying to figure out what is happening to him and ends up making himself a grilled cheese, after contemplating something that reminded him of gross cheese. It is such an weird, vivid moment:

“At the kitchen table he stands before the elk bundle—the hairy burrito—for maybe thirty seconds, finally pushes a finger into it. It’s mushy and rough at the same time, smells like some soft cheese that was on the table at a party once, that he knew better than to eat.

‘Cheese,’ though. Now he’s thinking cheese.

It’ll wreck his digestion, but, figuring that’s the least of his concerns right now, he makes a grilled cheese for breakfast…” (87).

At other moments, the humor comes from the headlines Lewis writes in his head about his day-to-day life. For example, after he cleans up the kitchen: “the headline scrolling across the back of his forehead: INDIAN MAN FIRST IN HISTORY TO PICK UP AFTER HIMSELF” (88).

In the second half, the book loses steam. It continues with more of the story focusing on Lewis’s remaining friends, and dipping into the consciousness of the young elk. I found this second half less tense and therefore less scary. I could see an argument that this portion of the book brings resolution to the plot that began ten years before, but I think in widening the scope of the story, the horror is diluted and the writing gets less intimate and engaging. Even still, the first half of this book includes images and writing that will stick with me for a long time. It was an excellent read. If you have a large TBR pile going, I think this book would be great to pull out on a blustery day in late Fall. The setting around Thanksgiving time lends itself to the scary atmosphere.

Further Resources:

Live Stream of Author Event at the Tattered Cover

Women’s Suffrage Books to Read for the Centennial and Election Resources for 2020

IMG_20190826_090029738

Me at a march August 26th, 2019 to kick off the Women’s Suffrage Centennial.

On August 18th, 1920, the 19th Amendment was ratified by Tennessee, the last state that was needed to take the “Susan B. Anthony Amendment” across the finish line. On August 26th, 1920, it became the law of the land: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”

Summer 2020 was meant to be full of celebrations, lectures, and marches, many of which have moved online because of the pandemic (see Digital Resources), but I have been really grateful that the House Museum Book Club that I am part of has kept going over Zoom. This year’s theme was women’s suffrage and many of the books have been great. I have also been checking out books from my local library. Here are my favorites, in case you also want to brush up on your suffrage history.

SuffragePicketing1az

Image from National Parks Service. Silent Sentinels picketing outside the White House to pressure Woodrow Wilson to act on suffrage.

  • Why They Marched: The Untold Stories of the Women Who Fought for the Right to Vote by Susan Ware. I particularly appreciate how this book includes women of color, working-class women, and Anti-Suffs in the history of women’s suffrage. Often, the history of racism and classism in the suffrage movement is skimmed over and Ware does a wonderful job of acknowledging that history and also illustrating how black and working-class women were important to the movement.
  • The Woman’s Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote by Elaine Weiss cinematically tells the story of the fight to get the 19th Amendment ratified in Tennessee, including how the last vote was tipped by a letter to a young state senator from his mother. This story also gets into great detail about the tensions between the two arms of the suffrage movement led by Alice Paul and Carrie Chapman Catt.
  • The Women’s Suffrage Movement (Penguin Classics) includes primary documents from the movement from Seneca Falls forward. Reading history books is a great way to learn about the details and nuances of suffrage history, but reading texts written by the key figures in that history can help build a better depth of understanding and context.
  • Mr. President, How Long Must We Wait?: Alice Paul, Woodrow Wilson, and the Fight for the Right to Vote by Tina Cassidy is a fabulous biography of Alice Paul and her prolonged conflict with President Woodrow Wilson. Paul was such a firecracker and I thoroughly enjoyed learning about how she got her start with the British suffragettes as well as her “militant” fight for suffrage in the U.S. She was a tiny, athletic Quaker and a fascinating character.
  • Miss Paul and the President: The Creative Campaign for Women’s Right to Vote by Dean Robbins takes that history of Alice Paul and Woodrow Wilson and breaks it down for younger readers. It is a cute picture book version of the history for any young readers you have learning with you.
  • Amazons, Abolitionists, and Activists: A Graphic History of Women’s Fight for Their Rights by Mikki Kendall is a graphic novel that provides a complicated overview of women’s history globally and includes a section on the suffrage movement that does a great job of dealing with the issues around race in that history.

There is so much good content out there on women’s suffrage; this is just a few highlights. If Why They Marched gets you interested in Ida B. Wells, you could do a whole deep dive on her. There is a ton of great history online about suffrage in different regions, because the struggle for the vote looked very different in the west than it did in the south. Spend some time reading and you’ll always find that there is even more to learn.

Digital Resources

If you are looking for more information, activities, or events around the Women’s Suffrage Centennial, I think your first stop should be checking with your local history center or League of Women Voters, if you have them. I think these resources are also wonderful:

Vote This Year.

“To the wrongs that need resistance, To the right that needs assistance, To the future in the distance, Give yourselves.”  —Carrie Chapman Catt

suffrage over silence pie

Source: Suffrage Over Silence

These celebrations are not happening in a vacuum, however; 2020 is an election year and one in which the president is already trying to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the results for no truth-based reason. Do your feminist foremothers and Civil Rights heroes (<3 John Lewis) proud and make sure you and those in your circle are registered to vote and vote. Do not procrastinate, either. Vote early if you can. If you are voting by mail, give your sweet ballot plenty of time to get to the election board. Do your research on local elections. Be smart. Be educated. Be a participant.

There are plenty of resources that can help you figure out what you need to do this election. Vote.org and Suffrage Over Silence include information on getting registered to vote and receiving a ballot in each state. Ballotpedia is a wonderful tool for learning about what is on your ballot, with information from both sides of the debate on the ballot issues. This can be really helpful, because sometimes the language on those ballot issues is confusing and makes it hard to parse what you’re actually voting for or against.

You can call your senator and ask them to support the HEROES Act, which, in addition to continuing economic support in response to COVID-19, includes “$3.6 billion in election funding to expand vote by mail and safe in-person voting locations and $25 billion in funding for the United States Postal Service to help protect this election.” While you’re on the line, you could also discuss restoring the Voting Rights Act. The House passed a bill meant to do that in December and recently moved to have it renamed after the late, great Rep. John R. Lewis, but the bill has been held hostage by the Senate, led by Mitch McConnell (who is up for reelection this year, btw). If we cannot all vote and do so safely, we do not have the democracy that we so cherish. If voter turnout scares you, then maybe elected office is not for you.

If you are interested in the ongoing fight against voter suppression, I cannot recommend enough the book One Person, No Vote by Dr. Carol Anderson. It should make you so mad, but it is an incredibly detailed and clear picture of how voter suppression is still happening.

(Book Review) This Is My America by Kim Johnson

This Is My AmericaThis Is My America by Kim Johnson

This Is My America reminds me of if you crossed The Heartbeats of Wing Jones with The Hate U Give with Just Mercy. At the center of the story are two murder mysteries. While seventeen-year-old Tracy Beaumont is consumed by getting Innocence X (clearly a stand-in for The Innocence Project) to take up the appeal of her father, a wrongfully-convicted man on death row, her brother Jamal ends up the primary suspect in the murder of their classmate and his sort-of girlfriend, Angela. In order to prove the innocence of the men in her family, Tracy has to uncover an ugly truth that Angela stumbled on—the one that likely got her killed. There’s also a love triangle in this book for readers who are into that sort of thing (not me), but even romance aside, This Is My America is a thought-provoking page-turner that young adult readers and adults can both enjoy.

Back in June, I watched a panel from the Juneteenth Book Fest called “Capturing the Moment: What it Means to Write Black Stories Right Now.” A point that stuck with me, made by Angie Thomas if I’m remembering correctly, is that there are a lot of books out right now for young people that include elements about white supremacy and police brutality, but these books also have a lot more to say about Black people’s lives and experiences and so it is reductive to only focus on the parts relevant to current events. For example, in The Hate U Give, Starr is really into her sneakers. There are elements that focus on Black joy and family life that should not be overlooked.

This Is My America directly engages with many topics that connect to the broader theme that Black Lives Matter. Tracy teaches workshops on knowing your rights and what to do when you get pulled over. Although Johnson changes their names, she references cases of people such as Kalief Browder. The Klan ends up being a large part of the latter half of the novel, whereas the first half focuses a lot on the racism involved with the death penalty. There are many important issues for young people to think about as they read this book: police brutality, capital punishment, intergenerational trauma, how White people can cope with racist violence in their family’s history, and being a better ally. There are also prominent themes about courage, the moral responsibility to speak up, friendship, and family. Plus, the story features really sweet family moments, particularly between Jamal and his little sister Corinne. And there’s a murder mystery involving student journalists and teen girls acting like Nancy Drew. It’s a great, compelling book that I highly recommend.

(Book Review) Dorothy Day: Dissenting Voice of the American Century

dorothy dayDorothy Day: Dissenting Voice of the American Century by John Loughery and Blythe Randolph 

Servant of God Dorothy Day is a difficult figure to pin down, both in Catholic culture and in American history more generally. Raised a-religious in a working-class family, as a young woman, she ran with a hard-partying group of writers and had both an abortion and a daughter “out of wedlock.” Then, she converted to Catholicism, a decision that was mystifying to her family, friends, and her daughter’s father. Day became a prominent voice speaking out for the rights of workers and for the poor, and founded the Catholic Worker. Arrested for protesting with suffragists outside the White House, Day never voted. She was a tough critic of the government, consumerism, the Vietnam War, and also of the Church and its establishment.

Don’t call me a saint. I don’t want to be dismissed so easily. -Dorothy Day

Dorothy Day was long considered a longshot for colonization, but in 2000, she was named a “Servant of God” and an inquiry into her sainthood was opened by the Archdiocese of New York. (Crux: If canonized, Dorothy Day would be a saint for a ‘polarized’ world).  She has also been name-checked by Pope Francis alongside Thomas Merton and Martin Luther King, Jr. as an example of American morality. I think she’s an incredibly interesting figure for our moment in the church and in American public life. Dorothy Day had a devoted interest in many of the issues that we find ourselves dealing—or failing to deal—with this year, including poverty, segregation, and homelessness.

Loughery and Randolph’s biography starts with Day’s final arrest while protesting with Cesar Chavez, then goes back to the beginning of her life, following her turbulent story through its many turns, drawing on Day’s own writing as a source of both information and analysis.

Like Day’s autobiography, The Long Loneliness, I found this biography incredibly dense and difficult to get through. If you are interested in Day’s life and her message, however, I do not think that you can find a better source than this book. The authors do an excellent job of getting into the details of Day’s life that are often hard to find in her own writing. They use her writing, however, to provide insight into how Day reflected on her life and the issues that mattered to her. What I like best about this biography is that the authors frame it with the paradox that Day’s life can present. Bishop Barron often talks about the both/and of Catholicism and I think this biography explores how Day could seem contradictory, but usually, that tension stemmed from her seeking for God and how better to serve him and other people. The portrait of her commitment to justice and the Gospels is as beautiful as it is difficult.

Setting Boundaries Between Kids and Social Media

Social Media and ChildrenWe have a birth plan. The bassinet is assembled. The freezer is stocked. Julio and I have checked off many of the items on our nesting to-do list. This weekend, we negotiated what our policy will be about sharing our daughter on social media.

A year ago, when we talked about the future, our position was firmly no pictures of her face on social media platforms. At all. We planned to send pictures to our families and friends, but not share them elsewhere. The first problem that I see with such a strict plan is how to navigate other people sharing your child online. I am not confrontational by nature, often to my own detriment. I have a hard time setting boundaries; it’s actually something I have been working on in the last two years. Julio has no problem telling people no, but I sometimes get nervous that he won’t do so softly enough. It’s complicated, right?

Now, we’re in a different camp. As the pandemic has made everyone feel more isolated, I have seen the happiness that sharing life moments has brought to people online. And we’re excited. We have yet to get a good look at this girl’s face in an ultrasound, so when she finally makes her big debut, well, Julio’s going to want to print postcards.

But, here’s the thing, there are so many problems that can stem from sharing images of children on social media. Put plainly, from most to least horrifying, they are: pedophiles, invasion of privacy, and the embarrassment factor. I want to explore each of these areas, but before I do, an important disclaimer: I am not coming at this from a place of judgment of you or your parenting decisions.

First, the pedophiles. If this sounds like an inflated threat to you, I recommend that you listen to the CBC podcast Hunting Warhead (trigger warning: child pornography and rape). This deeply upsetting series follows detectives and journalists as they try to catch the mastermind behind a ring of child pornography sites. One of the most shocking aspects of the series was how the users of these sites would take photos that may not seem at all sexual, download them, and circulate them. Like, your profile picture, which is publicly available. It’s chilling. And it escalates. Really, no image of your child that is not behind a privacy wall is safe. And even then, if you have 1,000 contacts on social media that you may or may not know well–how do you know that one of them is not involved in using and sharing child pornography? Having worked in a corrections setting, I can tell you, people who do such things are not branded with a scarlet letter.

Next, invasion of privacy. A baby does not have any idea of privacy, but around age five, children start to develop a sense of their own identity and with it a need for privacy. Psychologists worry that sharing too much about your child online can cause them to feel like they do not have control over this developing autonomy. Furthermore, Stacey Steinberg, an associate director for the Center on Children and Families at University of Florida Levin College of Law, points out that the digital content parents put out about their children can be tied to that child for years to come thanks to internet algorithms, face recognition technology, etc. Think about how protective we are of our own privacy online. Imagine that you had another person pumping tons of content about you onto the internet and you had no say or no control.

The more that the world moves online, the more we see the lasting impact a person’s digital footprint can have. Protecting a child’s digital presence could be even more important ten years from now. Fatherly explains how “sharenting” exposes children to “surveillance capitalism” which extracts as much data about them as it can before they can consent or opt out: “Sharenting tells them what your child looks like, when she was born, what she likes to do, when she hits her developmental milestones and more. These platforms pursue a business model predicated on knowing users – perhaps more deeply than they know themselves – and using that knowledge to their own ends.”

Finally, embarrassment. This one is tied closely to the previous point. Julio expects this girl to be the third Latina president of the United States someday, and we just can’t have something we posted when she was a child come back to embarrass her on her way to the top. So much that we think is cute or harmless could be considered embarrassing or shameful twenty years from now. We just don’t know. We don’t know what she might really regret us sharing about her life, so we are going to try to keep that digital footprint small until she can have a say. And then we will teach her about guarding her own privacy.

Again, I am not judging anyone’s choices. I myself have changed in this area. When she was young, I shared pictures of my sister. Later, when I thought about it more, I locked many of them down. Now, Julio and I have a decision to make in regards to this new person.

Here’s where we landed: no images of our daughter’s face on public-facing social media (including profile pictures and banner images). Period. Not on our accounts or anyone else’s. And when we do share, we will share sparingly. Honestly, to me, it feels like a compromise. And I know it’s going to be hard.

Further Reading

Why I Put My Dog’s Photo on Social Media, but Not My Son’s

Five Reasons Not to Post About Your Child on Social Media

What’s the harm in posting about our kids on social media?

What to know before posting a photo of your kids on social media

Do Parents Invade Children’s Privacy When They Post Photos Online?

Think twice about posting photos of your kid on Facebook

The Fatherly Guide to Keeping Kids Safe Online

(Book Review) Fight of the Century: Writers Reflect on 100 Years of Landmark ACLU Cases

41zmchStXKL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Fight of the Century: Writers Reflect on 100 Years of Landmark ACLU Cases edited by Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman

Although the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) got a boost in popularity when they promised President-elect Trump that they would “see him in court” if he tried to enact campaign promises that contradicted the Bill of Rights, the organization has been hard at work for 100 years, fighting to protect our rights. Many of their cases have helped shape our contemporary understanding of First Amendment Rights, Civil Rights, and more.

Fight of the Century, a new edited collection from Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman features a treasury of authors reflecting on particular ACLU cases. Each chapter prefaces the author’s work with a brief overview of the case, its context, and its impact. Through the combination of these prefaces and the following reflections, I learned a lot about cases that I had never heard of, or had only just heard of. I also appreciated the personal reflections on cases that I knew a great deal about, such as Yaa Gyasi’s thoughts on her own education in relationship to Brown v Board of Education of Topeka (1954)

Other chapters that I especially enjoyed include “Victory Formation” by Brit Bennett, which examines Colin Kaepernick in connection to West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette (1943)which found that public schools could not force students to participate in patriotic rituals; “How the First Amendment Finally Got Its Wings” by Timothy Egan, which takes up New York Times Co. v. Sullivan (1964), a crucial freedom of the press case; and “Loving” by Aleksandar Hemon, which reflects on Loving v Virginia (1967) from the improbable context of the author’s childhood in Bosnia and Herzegovia, where “mixed marriages” were common before the war.

Finally, a major vote in favor of this collection is that it includes a dissenting voice. That, after all, is part of the whole vibe of the ACLU, and they do not consider themselves above criticism. Scott Turow, a lifelong ACLU supporter, writes a chapter that staunchly disagrees with the ACLU’s stance in Buckley v Valeo (1976) and subsequent campaign finance cases. He does not pull his punches, but the chapter is included along with those that openly praise ACLU legal work. The collection also examines cases in which the ACLU defended the First Amendment rights of those who they disagreed with, such as the American Nazi Party. As Chabon and Waldman write in their introduction, “To understand the vital role that the ACLU plays in American society requires a nuanced understanding of the absolute value of freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom from unwarranted search and seizure, of the right to due process and equal justice under the law, even—again, especially—when those rights protect people we find abhorrent or speech that offends us.” There may be court cases in the collection that you oppose, but the ACLU has spent the last 100 years defending your right to do so.

(Book Review) A Century of Votes for Women

41DxaxdZY9L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_A Century of Votes for Women: American Elections Since Suffrage by Christina Wolbrecht and J. Kevin Corder

We are less than two months away from the centennial of women’s suffrage in the United States.* I’ve been doing a lot of reading about suffrage history this year.  So far, I have most enjoyed Why They Marched and The Woman’s Hour. This week, I picked up A Century of Votes for Women, which is a history of elections since the passage of the 19th Amendment.

A Century of Votes for Women: American Elections since Suffrage is the kind of book I imagine would be invaluable if I were working on a research project about women as voters, but as a casual read it was not an especially compelling or fun read.

The book breaks down the last century into a handful of distinct time periods: 1920-1936, the 1940s and 50s, 1964-1976, the 1980s and 90s, and the twenty-first century. In each chapter, the authors present an overview of the major, national political trends and shifts during the time period, then break down the data on voter turnout based on factors in women’s lives such as gender norms, family, economics, and education. Each chapter ends with a section that reinforces that women are not a voting bloc and explains how women’s voting choices were influenced by race, age, education, marriage, family, work,  and the politics of place. This layout makes navigating each chapter easy. It also clearly marks this book as an academic text. It is short on narrative, heavy on data.

I found the most interesting part of each chapter to be the sections that examined political trends and the changes in the lives of women during the designated time period. I found that I got the most out of them. For the other sections, the authors are basically tracking the gradual shift from voter turnout for women slightly trailing men to women turning out more than men (the Gender Gap) and the gradual shift of women voters from largely supporting the Republican party to mostly voting for Democrats. If that is a story that fascinates you, this book is for you. Otherwise, you might read the intro and conclusion and skim the rest. It is a valuable book for all the information it compiles, it is just not a great read.

*I think it’s important to acknowledge that the history of the suffrage movement in the U.S. includes an unfortunate streak of racism, as suffragists from the south were openly racist and many suffragists from the north felt they had to make concessions in order to get the vote. Although the 19th Amendment technically enfranchised all women, in practice women of color were still kept from voting until the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. And voter suppression is still alive and well today. The fight did not end in 1920—not by a long shot.